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Scoop's "Meet The MPs" Project: John Boscawen

Scoop's Meet The New MPs Project: Karoline Tuckey talks to Act’s John Boscawen

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Scoop’s Karoline Tuckey met with John Boscawen to find out about the man and the issues in Parliament that drive him.

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As a new MP John Boscawen has already felt the thrill of being in on the action; his bill amending the Section 59 ‘smacking law’ was drawn from the ballot on August 26, five days after the national referendum.

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The bill, allowing parents to use force but within specified criteria, was expected to go before parliament yesterday [September 23] for its first reading, but after Mr Boscawen postponed it the earliest date it can be heard is October 21.

National, Labour and the Green party have all said they will not support the bill, meaning it cannot get the support needed to pass the first reading.

Mr Boscawen entered parliament as an Act Party list MP after the November 2008 election. He has been a long-time party faithful, and before becoming a candidate he spearheaded a campaign against the electoral finance act.

He grew up in Papatoetoe in South Auckland. He went to Otahuhu College where his father was a teacher, and later principal. He graduated from Auckland University as an accountant.

Since 1990 he has been self-employed in finance and property development. The success of which Mr Boscawen says allowed him to plough time back into voluntary work for the Act party, which he joined when it was formed in 1995.

“Initially when I joined it I did it for benevolent reasons, I wasn’t doing it to try to become an MP myself. I was doing it because I strongly supported the policies that Act laid out in 1995,” he said.

When Roger Douglas approached him to stand alongside him as a candidate for Act in the November 2008 elections, Mr Boscawen was embroiled in the unsuccessful campaign against the Electoral Finance Act. So he initially declined the offer. But in August, just three months before the election he joined the campaign as Act’s fourth list candidate.

“What attracted me to go into politics was to represent ordinary New Zealanders. The battlers if you like.”

Mr Boscawen also ran unsuccessfully as the Act candidate in this year’s Mt Albert by-election.

Q & A

1. What is your view on the decision taken by the Government in relation to

the smacking referendum in terms of what it says about NZ democracy?

“Am I disappointed in the government’s response? Yes I am. I was disappointed in the government’s response before my bill was drawn from the ballot, and even more after it was drawn from the ballot. I was disappointed before it was drawn from the ballot because the prime minister said that he wasn’t going to change the law, and the prime minster has acknowledged that the law basically says that you can’t smack your children.”

“I believe the law is very uncertain. John Key has said last week that he thinks that section 59 is a dog’s breakfast - those were his words. And if it’s a dogs breakfast it’s parliament’s job to change the law and to clarify the law.”

“I don’t believe that citizens’ initiated referendum should be binding.”

“There are lots of things to bear in mind when you pass laws, and I don’t think you can encompass them all in a referendum but I think they should be very persuasive.” “I think that people should be listened to, and particularly when it’s 87%, and particularly when it’s such a high turn-out.”

“I think citizens’ initiated referendums should be taken more seriously, yes. I think they are probably the ultimate means that a citizen has at their disposal to try and bring pressure on the government. If a citizen is not happy with a decision of government it’s in their hands to try and mobilise and get the 220,000 signatures necessary.”

2. What is your view on the merits of MMP vs FPP? Should there be another

referendum on the subject and what is your preferred outcome?

“I voted against MMP [in the 1993 referendum], I believed that it would lead to poorer quality government. But I’m now a Member of Parliament as a consequence of MMP. The reason I believed it would lead to poorer quality government is because under first past the post you elected invariably one or the other, Labour or National, and one of those two parties came to parliament, and they came to parliament with a manifesto, and they were then charged with putting that manifesto [into effect]. Under MMP you can’t do that, because the Labour party can say ‘we’re going to do these things’, and the National party can say ‘we’re going to do these things’. But ultimately they are dependent on being able to form a coalition, and in the process of building a coalition it gives them an excuse not to do what they say they are going to do.”

“Having said that I think that MMP has got certain advantages over first past the post, and I think that our parliament is far more diverse than it otherwise would be.”

“Some of the negative things I foresaw have come to fruition. ...But then again I’ve seen the benefits, and for example right now on the smacking referendum, if we had first past the post, we’d have the two major parties say we’re not going to make any change. “

“And MMP allows a small party like ourselves to get into parliament, so you have a small independent voice. I’d like to think I’m going to be successful in convincing both Labour and National to change their position on my bill. I may not, but I will try. So ...I can see the advantages of both systems. “

3. Name a dream team of seven members of Parliament - people who you think exemplify how an MP should conduct him/herself. Your list of seven can only include three members of your own party.

“Well the politician in parliament that I have the highest respect for is Sir Roger Douglas...I wouldn’t be in parliament if it wasn’t for Sir Roger Douglas.”

“Roger wrote a speech recently called No Second Class Citizens, and he’s brought out a book by the same name, and everything that Roger espouses in that speech is my values, and so that is the politicians I most admire.”

“Two, I admire my own leader, [Rodney Hide], I think he has been a fearless warrior, so I have huge respect for him and his political abilities.”

“I think the current crop of backbenchers, or the people who came in in the last parliament... are a very competent group of people. One who I met, and whose maiden speech I heard... is a guy called Kelvin Davis ... a Labour MP. I though he spoke very well in his maiden speech and he was a intermediate school principal from Kaitaia.”

“A whole lot of National cabinet ministers.”

“A former MP, the former minister of finance Michael Cullen, because he passed KiwiSaver, and I would love to see compulsory savings introduced into this country. ... I think that KiwiSaver is the forerunner, or lays the foundations for compulsory savings.”

“I think that Judith Collins is a very capable lady. We’ve got a major problem with crime in this country, and we’ve got to get on top of that, and I think that she’s got the will and determination to do that.”

“Tariana Turia, because I think that one of the biggest social issues that our country faces is social welfare.” “Tariana Turia has said that the social welfare system has killed the will of her people. And Tariana Turia knows that you don’t build strong families and strong communities if you have high levels of dependency.”

Karoline Tuckey is a journalism student at Massey University


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